As much as I gripe about the business and programming practises of the software company known as Blizzard Entertainment, I have to hand it to them where marketing skills and revenue stream diversity are concerned. Like any good company in a deregulated economy, Blizzard are well aware that they cannot make anywhere near the profit they do if they restrict their trade solely to software. So novels, keyrings with authenticators, novelties based on the games, and even digital pieces that can be added to the games, are offered in their online store.
Whilst I can complain endlessly about how they implement new expansions or how they respond to customer dissatisfaction, the one thing I cannot fault Blizzard for is how they sell products. There is almost a certain reminiscence of when the Internet was in the early stages of being commercialised. Essentially, rather than bombard the user with obnoxious solicitations to buy this or that item, Blizzard go with the let them come approach. That is not to say that they do not entirely fail to advertise. The hints they give that adding an authenticator (essentially, a remote device that downloads a code from a server and displays it to the user who then types it back at the login window) will make it harder for hackers to get into one’s account are very strong. But one could play World Of Warcraft and visit the associated web site for years without seeing advertisements other than the splash pages at the site’s initial loading or the aforementioned hints about getting an authenticator.
So when I tell you that I went to their online store and purchased a real-world plush toy that resembles the baby Gryphons seen in the game, consider it a triumph of subtle marketing.
For those who are completely ignorant of the World Of Warcraft universe (and forgive my phrasing, as sometimes I envy people who can say that), a Gryphon’s role is pretty simple. As one might imagine in a game where players have to traverse huge amounts of terrain in order to progress, shortcuts of some form are necessitated. In the Diablo series, this came in the form of teleporter-like Waypoints and Town Portal spells. In World Of Warcraft, players can be transported to and fro through purchase of a ride on a Gryphon. Like their namesake in popular British mythology, Gryphons are essentially massive Eagle-like birds with the torsos, tails, and limbs of a Lion. When fully-grown, Gryphons are majestic-looking animals whose default expression tells the player not to fukk with them as if through a megaphone.
As people have discovered since the final quest area of Cataclysm, however, Gryphon Hatchlings, as they are called in-game, are unbearably cute. They wander around on all fours in those little rapid-fire steps that baby animals often effect in order to find a place to feel safe. In one group of quests, one even is taked to locate a Gryphon Hatchling named Beak and return him to the Dwarf who cares for him. Said Dwarf is one of the Dunwald brothers. The Dunwald brothers are a foursome who are literally so tough that even other Dwarrow stand in awe of them. Donnelly’s speech generally makes him sound as if he has taken a hit to the head, but his love and care of Beak provides one of the few moments in the Cataclysm expansion where I felt genuinely satisfied after completing a quest. After the quest is handed in, Donnelly instructs Beak to fly back to his sister, Keely. She will keep Beak safe, he says in his own memorable way.
So help me, I am also a sucker for plush toys of various kinds. Bears are the obvious example. I have more teddybears in my present place of residence than I do portable electric fans. And given that this is a Queensland-style house I am talking about, that is saying something. But this Gryphon Hatchling is the first Avian, or Feline-Avian hybrid, plush that I have in my home, so he deserves special mention.
I also took the time out whilst doing the dungeon grind to tell my co-GM that I consider it an honour to have built the guild, level, and quest with her to the point we have reached thus far. I do not state things like that lightly. Whilst people have come and gone in my World Of Warcraft world in great numbers, the changes to how I view my world and the people therein that have occurred simply as a result of meeting with her have been great. I want that noted for the record because I have in the past encountered people whose input has changed my experience of the world for the better, and I never received or took the chance to say thank you at all. Leave alone properly.
All of these pictures also tell me that I have come to a bit of a slow period in terms of learning photography. Real photography, I mean, not just pointing a little box at the subject and pressing a button. All of these shots were taken using a fixed-length 35mm lens. However, rather than the tripod I often use to photograph subjects in a static position, I either hand-held the camera or used a monopod. This places a dramatic limit upon the allowable exposure time. The only known authentic photograph of William Antrim, terrible as it looks to us nowadays, only came out as well as it did because Antrim was braced in position for a long-ass exposure. If the camera or the subject moves whilst the iris is open, it will be reflected in the final result. But on the same token, the longer the iris remains open, the more of the imagery in front of it will be in focus in the final result. Hence, whenever you see a photograph where a person’s nose looks razor-sharp but their eyes look hazy and out of focus, this is because the exposure time was less than what was required.
My Gryphon Hatchling shows this problem to a certain extent in at least one shot. Such is the result of taking the shots quickly and not really planning them out. Not that it really matters that much in these shots. Everything that is really important can be made out.
Another reason for purchasing this Gryphon Hatching plush was because the purchase price included an in-game pet of the same kind. In fact, that may well have been the only reason I made the purchase at the time. Watching baby Gryphons wander around does provide momentary distraction from the annoyance of most of the rest of the game.
In related news, I also secured an additional pair of RAM chips to put in my desktop computer. The 2011 27″ iMac provides four slots into which RAM chips can be placed. Now, Apple claims that the absolute maximum amount of RAM that can be supported by this computer is sixteen gigabytes, with each slot being filled by a four gigabyte chip. However, multiple reports from real-world consumers had it that in reality, this iMac could in fact take up to four eight gigabyte chips. The four four gigabyte chips statement by Apple is more likely just them covering their arse by a long way. Presently, my machine has two four gigabyte chips and two eight gigabyte chips, and it works fine. In fact, compared to how it performed running World Of Warcraft or Diablo III beforehand, I would say that it is working absolutely amazing.
One of the most annoying things about trying to figure out placements of graphics in web pages is that the web continues to be designed without so much as a single thought regarding future-proofing. In fact, regression seems to be the order of the day in the online world, with more and more sites insisting that 16:9 ratio monitors with a diagonal measure of twenty-seven inches be forced to display their content as if it were printed on receipt paper. Designers of televisions could not have known that by 1965, no feature film would be made in the 4:3 aspect ratio. Web designers, computer designers, and everyone in between have no such excuse. Given both the rapid and increasing pace at which information technology develops (more on this another time, methinks) and the fact that 16:9 televisions are now just a fact of life, receipt-paper-restricted texts are just not on.
Phew. I am sure the Gryphon Hatchling is probably wondering what I am raving and foaming at the mouth about (not really, but play along). Above is the last picture I took with him. I decided to stick my head in just to give an idea of his scale. I think that this Gryphon Hatchling in plush form is actually significantly bigger than the Gryphon Hatchlings seen in-game. The ones in the game are small enough that the only Humanoid race they are more than shin-high on would be the Gnomes, and even then it’s only slightly. Which, when you consider how their parents are large enough to effortlessly carry Humanoids of up to ten feet in height, is quite funny. Adolescent Gryphons must eat like Worg meat is going out of fashion. But yes, the Gryphon Hatchling plush is only slightly smaller than my head (and my head is fairly large, relatively speaking).
So there you have it. After being approximately forty dollars poorer, I now have a plush Avian-Feline hybrid that draws “aww” exclamations. Now I just have to introduce him to the bear clan I have in the house.